Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Tears and Jubilation as Toronto relegate

Those who managed to travel to Serowe to bear testimony to Notwane’s last day in topflight football were treated to a 10 goal thriller. It was a game which was action packed from the first whistle. When Notwane raced into a 2-0 lead in the first half, thanks to Emmanuel Masisi and Sthembile Mbuque, it seemed like Toronto fans were in for a treat. Notwane fans erupted into song and dance as their team took a two goal lead. At the break it was 2-0 and things looked rosy for the sleeping giants.

Things, however, fell apart after the break as Notwane and Satmos players were involved in a scuffle in Notwane’s goalposts for what is alleged to have been ‘muti’ which had been sprinkled there. While many thought the drama was over, Notwane experienced campaigner Ndobane Mothuba was red carded. At the time, nobody in the Notwane camp was bothered by the card since they were enjoying what looked like a comfortable lead. But the situation took a bitter twist as Sanidi Takunda and Kediemetse Radikoko levelled matters. With five minutes to go, Lewis Sekwainyana rose high at a far post to make it 3-2 for Toronto.

It seemed like the contest was over but captain Gagotwesepe Legoreng forced the match into extra time. Takunda took the centre stage as he netted thrice in extra time to send hundreds of fans at the stadium into wild celebrations. At this stage, the writing was on the wall and everyone close to Notwane could sense it. When referee Keabetswe Dintwa blew the final whistle, Notwane players threw themselves to the ground while Satmos players went on to celebrate with the fans. On the stands, Notwane fans were lonely figures as some of them could not hold their tears. Notwane chairman Arnold Somolokae tried to put up a brave face at the dressing rooms with a number of fans seeking answers. But it was not enough to save the fans from the pain they had endured on the day.

One Notwane fan driving a white sedan tried to seek solace from Keke Palmer’s song “Me and You against the World” as he drove out of the stadium. But his situation was not helped by another fan at the main gate who shouted at him; “Notwane e dule (Notwane have relegated).” As the lights switched off at the stadium, the darkness meant the end of the road for Toronto, the team which used to dominate Botswana football.

Former Notwane marksman Brown Gasemotho told this publication that things fell apart when there was lack of accountability. He said when Notwane decided to host their game against Sankoyo Bush Bucks in Maun, the main idea was to raise funds for the players’ salary backlog. “The intention was to go there and make money because we knew we’ll attract a bumper crowd. But it turned the other way round as there were allegations that some cash wasn’t accounted for. Since then things have not been the same for Notwane because some players went on strike demanding their outstanding salaries,” he said. Gasemotho pointed out that the players were committed and wanted to help Notwane to remain in the topflight but were let down by the management.

“I don’t think we can blame the players because they gave their best. Now this is the time for all Notwane supporters to come together and map the way forward. It will be pointless to point fingers; we need to take the blame as a group. Life in First Division is not going to be easy and we need committed people who will be able to bring back the team where it belongs,” he said.

Notwane skipper Kgaodi ‘Deco’ Odirile pointed out that they tried their best this season, but, unfortunately, fell short. “We should not have been in this situation (relegation) if we could have fought together as a club. There is need to sit down and come up with some remedies which will see us bouncing back. Yes, it is not going to be easy but I believe that if we put our minds together we can achieve it. I would like to apologise to our fans for letting them down but things like this are bound to happen at some stage,” he said.

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